I was doing some online banking this morning and had to call the 800 number to finish up. This was frustrating — ended up having to call three different numbers, was given incorrect information, and wasted much effort trying to navigate the voice operated system. Ugh. Nope! Apparently we have to talk to an actual person to close an account. That person, John, immediately inquired about why I was closing the account and gosh wouldn’t I be interested in investment options from the bank? I decided to pull the cancer card: John, I said, I have CANCER, so, NO I am not interested in investing, I just want to close the account and spend the money.
Haha on me. The cancer card didn’t work.
John started telling me his own cancer story. He had had a tumor on his spine, was in a wheelchair, and his doctors had pretty much written him off. John decided to ‘make the doctors wrong.’ We spent ten minutes talking about various cancer details and things he used to help himself heal. John is now almost completely healed and the spinal tumor is gone … this is a cancer which was supposed to kill him years ago.
When you get a cancer diagnosis you automatically join a club. It’s not a club anyone wants to join, but there you are. Sometimes a fellow member shows up and startles you … often in a good way. And it’s interesting how a stranger can change your day, change your outlook, remind you about optimism. Thank you, John in Pittsburgh, for our conversation. And thank you for closing my account.
Just a quick update. Had a CT scan, an MRI, then bloodwork, meeting with NP, meeting with oncologist, and meeting with therapist. Squeezed in ten minutes of meditation during this schedule (because the APP TRACKS my daily diligence:) !!! Even managed to take a quick nap sometime in the there (much needed – i got up at 4:00 am to start this day!).
The bloodwork showed tumor markers down slightly (that’s the right direction). Scans showed that previous tumors on liver had shrunk a bit (that’s great!). But scans also showed a new ‘tumor-looking-spot’ on my liver. I suggested maybe it was a smudge on the film. NP said, sorry nah. I suggested a pumpkin seed lodged in my right lobe? I’ve been eating a LOT of pumpkin seeds, you know : )
Yeah, probably not a pumpkin seed either, but we’ll just look again in four months and see what’s happening. Nothing at all changes with my current treatment. Nothing critical.
Sooo, I’m headed to my FABULOUS bathtub. Can’t fathom anything better right now. Tomorrow, another day to plan forward!
This evening I was on the phone with my dear pal, and love, and sister-in-law, Karen, who, like me has not-insignificant health issues. Her’s are cardio … heart problems since childhood. She and I are both big believers in positive thinking and positive visualization. While positive thinking/imagery are sometimes written off as silly, ‘wishful thinking’, positivity can and does make one’s thoughts, one’s head, feel better even if not one’s body. (I believe it can do both.) But EVEN if only your mind and thoughts feel better, hell, that’s huge!
Tonight Karen admitted that she was just not able to see herself as being strong and robust … could not do the visualization. Ha, I thought, I’ve been there! Decades ago I remember thinking I’d never be able to handle diabetes gracefully. Was frustrated that I couldn’t imagine it and couldn’t visualize it at all. So, what I did instead was this … I visualized myself being able to visualize it (living a life with diabetes in control). It was my ‘visualization stepping stone’.
It worked. Not over night, but it worked.
Karen loved this! Loved the tactic of visualizing yourself being able to visualize. I had only ever mentioned this idea to my daughter, when she was a teenager, and of course, as a teenager she ROLLED HER EYES big time. So it never occurred to me that it could be of interest to anyone, even though it has worked for me many, many times.
I have more to write about hurdles and positivity, but wanted to get this written tonight, Sunday. Thursday is a big Dana Farber day — CT scan, MRI, blood tests, NP, and then oncologist. Woo hoo!
(And, quick update, hair is very FLUFFY with this summer humidity. : )
My next appointment at Dana Farber is July 18th. That leaves me oodles of time, right now, to document interesting tidbits from my past on this blog. And then I think, nah, people following along want to keep up with my present situation, not the past. Then I think, wait, there’s stuff I’ve seen, things I’ve done which could be interesting, maybe even useful, to someone. And then I remember, man, it is difficult to commit the past to printed words. It involves self revelation, self exposure.
The future? Well, that’s always on my mind. Last summer was when my oncologist predicted I had 2-5 years left to live. So, okay, let’s do the arithmetic … 2 minus 1, 5 minus 1 … shit, do I only have 1-4 years now? I will ask for an update on July 18th. I’ve been feeling so incredibly well recently, I feel like I could live for decades! I’m picturing myself doing just that — “positive imagery” — not scientifically established as helpful, but certainly not harmful. The medications I’m on right now are newish, so maybe their track record has improved since last summer? Maybe there are even newer, more fabulous remedies in the pipeline? Again, I will ask on the 18th.
Here are a few random, current thoughts:
(1) Last week my favorite bartender, Jesse, who has seen me both with and without hair, asked how I was feeling. I said … really fantastic! … and she replied … that makes my heart explode! Which made my heart explode!
(2) Listening to a radio show yesterday, a successful screen writer mentioned that he came from a whole family of great story tellers. OMG, I thought, that’s what it takes! It takes a whole family!
My family? story telling? — yeah, not one of our greatest, strongest points. We mostly sit around talking about politics, economics, and post-modernism. Oh, and that’s an improvement; when I was growing up, parties at our house consisted of two dozen math professors milling around the food table, discussing the intricacies of a particular theorem. Note: I have an old friend who’s father was also a professor, and he proclaimed … Oh, I LOVED department parties! They ALWAYS ended up with people dancing on tables. … Yep … His father was an English professor, not a math professor!
The point of this anecdote … perhaps story telling in this blog would be effortless if only my family had been the table dancing sort.
(3) Below is today’s hair, with approx 3 liters of ‘product’ calming it down.
Ha! Received a LARGE, surprise camel in the mail! (Actually, I suppose it’s rather small relative to other camels.) The cats do NOT know what to make of it, probably because it has funny clumps of camel hair on its camel humps.
A week ago was DF and I neglected to post an update here on the blog. Several friends contacted me, worried … so, my apologies. My blood numbers were unremarkable. The important tumor marker went down a hundred points (yippee) but my liver function numbers both edged up a bit (hmmm). My NP said not to worry about the liver numbers, and I’ve been heeding her advice.
The camel arriving in the mail was much more interesting than my trip to DF. : )
Tomorrow, Tuesday, is DF again. Wait, whhaaaaaa? Ohhhh, yep, yep. Yes indeed. Sometime I have to stop and remind myself that these regular, frequent appointments at Dana Farber are the plan, for the rest of my life. Forgot for a moment … it’s a good plan.
Nothing cancer-wise to report until after the Tuesday visit, so deciding whether of not to write more about the past. My big, beautiful, medical past : )
The bangs have a new trick. Ninety degree angle, up! No matter how much hot ironing, and no matter how much pomade, two hours later they end up … up.
In 2010, things at Emeline were getting tricky. My daughter and I were living upstairs, and mom and dad were living downstairs in the first floor apartment of the two-family home we shared. Sharing the Emeline Street house was great, but dad was not doing well; he had Parkinson’s disease and was declining. It was in September that year that I had learned that my cancer had metastasized. Prior to that my brother, Bobby, needed stents inserted into his arteries because of arterial narrowing (he had had a heart attack at age 39). It was in December one evening, that the caregiver who helped my dad was leaving, and he asked me to look in on my mom — she doesn’t look too well, he said. After he left, I found mom in the bathroom throwing up.
Mom was never a complainer, and she insisted she’d be okay. But like my brother she had had a heart attack years before, so I was worried. She shuffled weakly back to her bedroom and looked miserable, holding a throw-up bucket under her chin. Her left arm was numb. Dad was calling me into his room. He asked about mom, so I said that she seemed to have a stomach ache or something, although I suspected something worse. (Mom NEVER got stomach aches or bugs, ever.) But dad said, Okay … well, your mother usually gets me some cheerios about this time in the evening. I said, Oh yes, I’m on it dad! I got a bowl of cheerios with milk and sugar and started the slow task of spoon feeding dad. A minute later mom was moaning so I had to run back to her room across the hall. Luckily dad was pretty much deaf, so he missed the moaning. I asked mom what I could do, and she said that she was fine. We both knew that wasn’t accurate. I suggested that we should go to the hospital because she might be having a heart attack, but she adamantly refused. ‘I am NOT going any where NEAR a hospital.’ From the next room, Dad asked, could I have some more cheerios, please? Oops, sorry dad, mom was not feeling too great, here’s another spoonful. I ran back and forth between the rooms a dozen times; then, dad was fed and comfortable in bed, ready sleep. Mom on the other hand got worse. I suggested the hospital again and she was furious. I called both my brother and sister — seemed like a situation they should know about. I believed mom was likely having a heart attack but she did NOT want to go to the hospital. Neither sibling knew what to do … we all knew mom’s wishes.
Think, think, think. Ah, I’ll call Wendy, she always knows what to do in a medical emergency! Wendy said, CALL ROSIE, she just went through this with HER mom! Thankfully I got Rosie on the phone right away: try suggesting to your mom that you just call the EMTs, that they know a lot more than either of you, and they might be able to diagnose her, but that they would NOT force her to go to the hospital if she didn’t want. I recited the same words to mom. Much to my surprise mom said, oh okay. (Thank you Rosie!) After calling 911, the EMTs arrived in three minutes, and after examining mom for thirty seconds they said she was having a heart attack. They also said they would not force her to go to the hospital, but that they thought it was a good idea. Mom agreed. Wait, huh?
After securing overnight help for dad, and getting my daughter off to her father’s house, I followed the ambulance to the hospital and stayed with mom in the ER until the doctors wheeled her off to surgery. A stent was inserted to clear her blocked artery. Heart attack fixed. By 1 AM, mom was in a room, recovering, feeling and looking much improved. We chatted and mom admitted, with a smirk, that yeah, she knew she might be having a heart attack at home, but figured she’d either wake up in the morning or not. … … … Such a pragmatic, mom thing to say! That’s how she was. She added, it was only because of the awful nausea that she agreed to come to the hospital, ANYTHING to stop that nausea!
When it was time for me to head home, and I promised mom I would be back early, early in the morning with her medications, her iPad, her hearing aids, etc. Gave mom a kiss goodnight, and as I was exiting the room mom declared, with a chuckle … Ya know? Our family is NOT the picture of health.
Don’t think I need to type anything else : )
Today both tumor markers were slightly down from last month — okay, I had been hoping they’d be cut in half, but good enough — and both liver function numbers are still normal. And THAT means that after the long drive home, I made a martini and sat on my porch, feeling downright sparkly.
More thoughts later. Now, I’m going in for a bath — BECAUSE I HAVE A BATHTUB!
‘Onward’ is often at the end of my blog posts, but it seemed like a good way to start today. Tomorrow is a Dana Farber day, and I’m trying to spend today thinking positively, not doubting.
On the hair front, yesterday I used a hand held mirror to take a peek at the back of my head. Ah, I do have “chemo curls” after all. Those curls makes it seem like my hair is growing really, really slowly, so today I bought a bottle of biotin supplements … hoping to speed things up. : )
Will report back on my numbers tomorrow.
Oh, oh, oh, new thought … maybe I should play my numbers in power ball !!! They’d be as ‘good’ as any numbers. (which is NOT very good : )
Yesterday was Dana Farber. Except for having to spend TWO AND A HALF HOURS in the waiting area, the appointment was faaaaannntastic. Blood draw showed my CA-15-3 tumor marker was down to 840!!! The normal range for that tumor marker is 0-25, but my last number was 1945, and it had been up to 5026 last year.
Icing on the cake, yesterday my super hero, who has doctors in adjacent buildings, was in the same place, same time.
As of late Friday the tub and tile are in! WOO HOO! So, Saturday I took a bath — first in a long, long time. Swished my hair through that water so many times – it was GLORIOUS!!!
However, because the shower curtain rod is not here yet, I only took a bath, no shower. Which means, my short crop of hair was washed in the tub – a procedure I’m not currently well informed on. But I figured, no big deal, before it dries I’ll just put in some hair goop and be on my way. I ran many errands and then stopped for a quick dinner at a favorite spot — ended up spending two hours chatting away at the bar. When I got home and saw my reflection in the mirror … oh good lord! It looked like I had put my finger in an electric socket. Every hair on my head was standing on end, sticking straight out. The dandelion-gone-to-seed look. Oh, the hazards of bath tubs.
Sunday I found some duck tape and a bunjee cord, and voila, temporary shower curtain.
Still fixing my hair.
Joanie and I have been friends since we were 23. We met at a party in Boston, and discovered we had gone to the same college and even graduated the same year! At that party we stared at each other and each said, I don’t think I EVER saw you on campus! Guess we moved in different circles. Still, Joan and I became immediate friends. One reason became apparent the second time we met and got talking. Joan grew up with, and still lives with, Cystic Fibrosis. I’d had insulin dependent diabetes since 13. Ha! – chronic illness was a bonding point! While our diseases were different, the stresses they produced were similar. Joan and I both viewed our lives very positively, despite our conditions. Both CF and diabetes are SERIOUS — it’s easy to despair, and we each knew others suffering with our diseases who lived with great despair. Joan and I would mull over why it was that we were able to feel positive while others could not. Was it because our individual diseases were a bit easier/less serious, or were our diseases easier because of our positive attitude? No one can really say. I cannot criticize people with diabetes who are pessimistic as their disease causes great harm. And I do not claim that my doing well with diabetes is because of a positive attitude. Joan feels the same about living with CF. I should add, both our diseases are tough, but CF is much more serious, and Joan is a super hero. She is devoted to curing CF as a volunteer and professionally, and her ability to look pain in the eye is astonishing. She somehow manages to accomplish more than most people without any ailments. One example: how many people reading this have run a marathon?!!
Four years after we met, when we were 27, Joan got diabetes! No, no, no, I shrieked! No, no, no, you already have enough to deal with! But yep, Joan had to start taking shots, testing her blood, and balancing her food, exercise, and insulin same as me. And she still had to take her many, many oral medications for CF and do periodic physical therapy to clear her lungs. In a way I felt guilty, I only had diabetes, and Joan now had my disease as well as her own. At least I was able to help out a bit — teach her some diabetes tricks of the trade. To this day we still compare notes on diabetes stratagem!
Fast forward to age 50. I’d gone through my first battle with breast cancer six years earlier, and all the doctors predicted I would be fine. But just after I turned 50, my oncologist made that evening phone call to tell me that my cancer was back, now metastatic. My first question: can it be cured? No. Once it has spread from the original cancer it does not go away. But you can live for ‘many’ years he said encouragingly. Many? How many is many? The answer: five, ten, fifteen years.
Fifteen did not seem horrible, but gotta say, five years did NOT seem like ‘many’ frick’n years.
It was not easy getting used to the idea of cancer again, this time, a cancer that was not curable. Some people like to label metastatic breast cancer as a chronic illness, thinking that sounds encouraging. Oh boy, another chronic illness! When I told Joanie about it, she shrieked — No, no, no! How unfair! You’ve already had enough to deal with. No, no, no.
Ah, me and Joanie and our chronic illness count.
Hey Joanie, guess what? I think I’ve one upped you. I win! Or are we tied again : )
ONWARD for us both!
The tub is going in today! Then tile, then fixtures and paint, and then finally I will soak! The impetus for installing a tub came from my many trips to Dana Farber — when I get home, I’m usually exhausted and ache to sit in a deep bath. Since my apartment was tub-less, I shopped around and found the teardrop shaped beauty getting installed today. I CANNOT wait to lean back and dip my head into warm water. Haven’t felt my hair swishing around in water for a long, long time, and I HAVE hair now. It’s time.
At my sister Kristen’s urging I will now also describe my new toilet. Not the toilet actually but the seat. I ordered a bidet toilet seat … google it if you’re not familiar. Our mom had a bidet from the time I was 12 until she died. I actually never tried it … seemed sort of personal, but mom loved her bidet. So I decided, eh, maybe I’ll get one. Research followed, and, OMGosh!!! Mom!!! if you knew what was available today!!! Heated seat, with night light. Separate, position-able nozzles for what they call rear and lady washes. Micro bubbles in the spray. Adjustable water temperature and pressure. Massaging/oscillating cleanse. Heated air dryer. Self sterilization for the nozzles, and a charcoal deodorizing filter. THIS is going to be an experience!
Quick question: ‘rear’ and ‘lady’ wash? Really? I’m gonna guess that a few men might take a spin at the lady wash cycle with the ‘massaging/oscillating cleanse.’ Just a guess.
My contractor Steve is predicting that first time I have a party there’ll be a line outside the bathroom door. ‘Hey Susie, hurry up in there.’ No one will ever leave the party.
Will let you know.
ONWARD : )